23 Jan 2020

Bid to alter New Caledonian enrolment law rebuffed

10:53 am on 23 January 2020

The law commission of the French National Assembly has rejected a bid to alter the law for enrolling in New Caledonia's independence referendum.

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Two New Caledonian anti-independence members wanted a change to the organic law so that all prospective voters born in New Caledonia would automatically be enrolled.

Under the current terms, the restricted roll for the plebiscite excludes non-Kanak residents, who have lived in New Caledonia for three years, unless they register as voters.

At last October's Paris meeting of the signatories to the Noumea Accord, the pro-independence delegates objected to such a law change.

At the time, the prime minister said those who failed to be enrolled automatically would be contacted and encouraged to register.

The law commission noted that there was no consensus for a law change, with one member saying it would prompt a deferral of the next referendum, which is due on 6 September.

Others said that failure to change the law breaches the equality between the various voters.

One of the New Caledonian members, Philippe Gomes, said the rejection by the commission was a disaster.

He said only a quarter of those identified as needing to register could be contacted.

In the first referendum under the terms of the Noumea Accord in November 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.

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